Showing posts with label Fullmetal Alchemist. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fullmetal Alchemist. Show all posts

15 June 2012

Colossal Con 2012: Hells to the Yeah.

Behold! This badge hath imbued me
with magical powers.
Wow oh wow, where the heck do I begin? 

This was my first Colossal Con! My first cosplay! (It made Deviant Art!) My second anime convention! My fourth convention in my lifetime! My first time at the Kalahari! My first panel presentation!! And in a way, my professional debut! 

This event had been a long time coming, with a lot of preparation, and a lot of goals to accomplish; and therefore this con had a lot of special meaning to me. 

First off--it helped cement some legitimacy for me as a real writer and an educator. Secondly--I felt attractive again while I was there, and it was nice to feel that way after so many years of feeling like blahhhh. Thirdly--met another one of my FMA fangirl objectives with overwhelming success! Lastly--good times with friends, a much-needed respite from homework, and memorable experiences. 

But it wouldn't be a trademark Kristina Elyse Butke review if I didn't do a day-by-day take with overblown commentary. So, here we go!

I had worked on my panel presentation for weeks, but I never created a Power Point presentation after 2001, when I was required to make one for my teaching class freshman year of college.  Needless to say, I was rusty, so I took a lot longer with the slide show than I expected. 

On top of that, I wanted to send panel attendees home with some freebies, so I was also working on a Give Good Spec! Storyteller Toolkit. I also had an additional links page with numerous web resources listed; and then a free sample of my book The Step and the Walk. 

Just putting together the files for the Storyteller Toolkit was super time-consuming. And as luck would have it, every technical snafu that could happen during this process did in fact happen, and the presentation and the Storyteller Toolkit almost didn't survive. I was pretty freaked out and spent all of Wednesday running around trying to get things to work.

My panel  in the program--
Woke up early after staying up late the night before. I took a break the night before to pack, but still had a lot more packing to do, plus wrapping up the Power Point slide show. Things continued to go wrong (transferring the file from my PC to the laptop sucked due to some ridiculous, off-the-wall issues), but good thing my friend Drew works in IT--he got things up and running (although the formatting on the slides and the fonts got messed up and we couldn't fix it). This was right before we had to leave so we could check into the hotel.

And because things were so hectic, I had a strong feeling I'd forget something. Which was my wig for my Danaerys Targaryen (Game of Thrones) cosplay. Although that was annoying, I didn't forget anything else that was valuable.

By the time we got to Sandusky (about an hour and a half from my current home) we checked into the Kalahari with 5,000 pieces of luggage (4,995 were mine, I think) and headed to our room.  I was very impressed with the size, design, and layout of the Kalahari, and pleased with our room (considering it was the cheapest room available, it was still pretty nice). As soon as we checked in, I changed into semi-professional clothing and tried to run my presentation in front of my friends before going downstairs to formally check in with Con Ops and Registration.

As soon as we left the room, I started to get really nervous. I have some of the worst nerves on the planet--my hands shake, my throat tightens and dries out, my tummy gets that pukey-pressure feeling...and that's what I felt when I walked to Events 6 (Indigo Bay) to give my panel.

I was STUNNED by the turn out. I expected like 4-5 attendees tops. But about 25 people showed up and I was happy and terrified to see them. Unfortunately, I couldn't conceal my nervousness when I started speaking. So let my mistakes be your lessons. When giving a panel--

Image (c) restricted.

Yes, I made those exact mistakes. Good news is, I didn't make them for the entire presentation. When I did get my anxiety under control, I managed to say some very important things, and my friends assured me that I came across as absolutely knowing what I was talking about. They also said I was in my element when I interacted directly with the audience.

And it was a dream audience to have. People participated, asked questions, and shared their own experiences and observations with everyone. My writing and drawing exercises seemed to be successful once we all got the hang of them, and even more importantly, I fit my panel into the 45 minutes I allotted for it. I did 40 minutes of the presentation, 5 minutes for Q & A, and then thanked everyone for attending my first panel ever in my life. Whew! 

I know that despite my nerves, it all turned out okay overall because I got applause from the audience. Not only that, but a few people stayed after the room cleared to tell me that they enjoyed the panel (Shout-outs to the girls in the front row. And the three guys who stayed after!). My best comment of the night, I think, was one of the guys who said, "You know, I'm a budding writer, and you've helped me so much! I learned a lot."


Too bad this is blurry. She's lovely!
I should've stayed after for the Adventure Time Lore panel--I had actually planned to attend it since Drew got me interested in the show--but I was so happy-hyper after my panel ended (and starving) that we decided to celebrate by eating bad Chinese Buffet food and hitting up Meijer for some mead and Chocovine.

I knew I was going to do my Lust cosplay for Friday (an FMA photo shoot had been scheduled on the message boards); what I also knew was that I had additional hair extensions that I hadn't tried before, plus a new make-up plan to make myself look more like an artificial human (Mehron butterfly-geisha creme stick + L'Oreal Magic Lumi Primer + Physicians Formula Translucent  Mineral Glow Pearls). So I drank a little, but mostly I cut apart the 26-inch weft of human hair and started curling and spraying it the night before. I predicted it would take me about 3 hours to put together full costume, hair, and I wanted to get as much out of the way the night before as possible.

This was the source image I used while I did my hair and makeup...
I slept in much later than I wanted to. I think I woke up at ten and started getting ready...and I hate to say it, but it took closer to 3 1/2 hours to get into full costume. I had layers of super underwear on (corset, crazy bra, shapewear), I had to curl my own hair, then add all the layers of extensions in. I also messed up my first two attempts with the translucent makeup, and invented a new lipcolor (black + red + lipgloss + eyeliner) to try and look like Lust in the Brotherhood series.

...And this is what I came up with when
 all was said and done.
In comparison, my friend Dave put together his Magneto costume in about 20 minutes. He and I joined Drew in the dealers room to wander the convention floor.

And for the first time ever, Dave and I experienced the bizarre wonderfulness of wandering the convention halls in full cosplay regalia. That meant being called out by character name: "Hey Lust!" or "MAGNETOOOOOOO!" Or being asked for hugs (Magneto was asked for the hug), or being asked for a photo op (which happened to us both), or the possibility of in-character banter.

"I prefer...Magneto."
We left briefly for lunch...and after eating awful food at the hotel restaurant (don't get me started on that), at 3pm we met up near the staircase for the Fullmetal Alchemist photo shoot (click the link for pics!)

 I knew Lust was a popular character, but I didn't expect to see so many of her at the con. There were three of us total for the shoot (not counting the other Lusts I saw throughout the convention), two Greeds, two Gluttonys, three Eds, one Winry, one Bradley, one Sloth (first series), and one Envy, two Roys, one Hawkeye, one Havoc, and one Hughes. All in all, a pretty decent turnout, considering most people come and do cosplay on Saturday. The whole experience was really neat.

As I've mentioned before, since being put on certain medications, I've ballooned in weight. (This is how I looked for most of my life, pre-diagnosis). I was concerned that my size would be an issue during cosplay. And you know what? It totally wasn't. I freaked out for no reason. People told me I looked awesome and sexy. *Sigh* I wanted to stay in my costume forever but two things ruined it for me: my hair weighed five billion pounds and therefore I felt like a walking sweatshop, and my super badass boots were destroying my feet. And I mean total annihilation. I've worn freaky shoes before, I hadn't dealt with pain like this. My toes were going numb, but the part of my foot, where my metatarsals are, was getting ridiculous. After only wearing the costume for about three hours, it was all off (including sweated off), and I had six new blisters on my feet.
I left it ambiguous enough for you to make it awkward or dirty.
While I was de-booting, we discovered you can only tell my eyes are violet-colored if I'm in direct sunlight. I bought the contacts during Ohayocon and added them to my costume because I wanted to go all-out with it. The lighting on the convention floor was pretty dim, so that little bit of extra effort was under radar for most of the con. So the guys took a moment to capture the freakish contacts on film before they headed off to swim and I headed to the tub for a loooooooong bath.

Honestly, I don't remember what else I did after that. It's a complete blank. So now I wonder if I fell asleep for a little bit? I'm not sure. I do know I had little energy at that point. And I know that I managed to get dressed again and head downstairs to the Con on my own. Deathcom Multimedia was at the convention earlier in the day and Dave (Magneto) and I got our pictures taken, so I know that I picked the prints up from them, and I also scoped out the Artist Alley because I was looking for a very specific type of artist to do a specific type of commission.

I wanted a professional to draw the leads of my fantasy novel, The Name and the Key: Lily Rose Camlo and Andresh Camomescro. I'm not a horrible artist, but I'm not very good either--still just beginning. Before leaving for Colossal Con I wanted to draw up a character sheet for Andresh and separate one for Lily to give to the artist as a guide, but due to lack of time, I only got around to doing Andresh's. At the last second I doodled Lily on there and unfortunately the quality for her character was sub-par due to the rush job.

My sketches of Andresh and Lily for
Molly Carlson to use as reference.
I walked through Artist Alley over and over again and surveyed the artists there...I grabbed a few business cards to look through and headed on my way.

Instead of going back up to the hotel room, I should've paid closer attention to the panel schedule, because there were things I wanted to attend and I totally went brain dead and forgot about all of them while I wandered aimlessly through the convention center or instead, sat on my bed, exhausted. What is wrong with me? These were my Friday panel topics I was interested in attending:

The Legend of Zelda || Kimono 101 || Oregon Trail Fail || The History of Nintendo || Plus-Sized Cosplayers || How to Panel a Panel Panel || Buddhism in Bleach || Karaoke (I know I said at Ohayocon I'd give up on Yui's Again after bombing it there, but I was feeling brave enough to try again) || Todd Haberkorn Autograph Session (I'd just do a pic with him only to make up for how crappy this one turned out) || 

Did I make it to any one of these awesome events? No. I completely suck. I horribly mismanaged my time and I regret it. *Shakes fist at self.*

Fun cosplaying group-- and I'm pretty sure it's D. Gray Man!
I don't even remember what we did when we all reunited in the hotel room again, except that later we watched Adventure Time, and I re-curled all of my hair extensions and burned myself several times, because you shouldn't play with heat-generating objects when you are worn out and brain-exhausted.

I hadn't even planned to wear my Lust cosplay for Saturday. I was going to do my kimono, but because I missed the Kimono 101 panel I still didn't learn how to properly tie my obi. Plus...I thought the Lust cosplay came out a million times better than I anticipated, so I decided that Saturday I would spend more time on the convention floor, wear the Lust cosplay for more than three hours, and get really involved in the panels and events.

An adorable Winry and Ed in the hallway.
And I'm digging that automail!
Sadly, plans changed and I still missed a bunch of stuff I intended on going to.  But there were also some awesome moments!

I wanted to start the day with Tiffany Grant's panel on Adapting Scripts for English Dubs (hey, I may actually do this someday) but I also wanted to get Vic Mignogna's autograph and possibly a picture. (For those who don't know, Vic's done a bajillion things, but I know him as Edward Elric from Fullmetal Alchemist. Hence my enormous desire for an autograph). But I'd heard from the forums and people at the con that his lines get ridiculous. Like, three-hour long ridiculous. I figured the best time would be to do the earliest autograph session in the day, get there an hour early, and then once I got the autographs out of the way, dive back into the panels.

Unfortunately, this meant that I had to skip Tiffany's panel in order to go stand in line. Luckily Drew went and took notes from her panel and gave me tips from the session throughout the duration of the con. I learned a lot about the industry just from his summary!

Anyway...that autograph line.... yeesh. 

I got a good place in it, but we were told we had gathered too early, so then I lost my awesome spot near the front. We scattered, but lingered in the hallway area, and then we were told to stop congregating there until it was actually the proper time to line up (half hour early, not full hour). I did as we were asked and I physically left the area to go further into the convention hall. As I left, I overheard one of the staff members talking and it sounded like they were going to literally parade fans around the convention center to kill time and clear the front room.

This was just some of the line. It kept going on ahead of
me and on behind me. But I was pretty much at the end.
I didn't want to be a part of that, marching through the halls and screaming the names of voice actors. I'm a fan, but I'm an older fan, and I'm just not into doing stuff like that. With the exception of the parents, I figured I had a good 10-15 years over most of the people in line. If I was younger I probably would've been all about the goofy fandom behavior, but...I'm creeping towards 30.  (Not quite there yet. Give me about a year.)

Unfortunately, because I walked into the next room over to get away from the scream-chanting "VIC MIGN-OGN-A" clap clap clap-clap-clap, I ended up getting reaaaaaally far back in the line. The doors opened about two minutes early and everyone had already piled in the autograph room. I followed in a trio of FMA cosplayers: Lust (I high-fived her in line), Roy Mustang, and Alex Louis Armstrong, and waited for what I knew would be a while.

Thankfully I'd been through the autograph process before (with Todd Haberkorn at Ohayocon) so I knew what to expect for the most part. I also remembered that I sounded like a dingbat when I spoke to Todd (I get really nervous, silly, shy, and ditsy around famous people) so I tried to mentally coach myself to not sound moronic. That was hard to do so instead I texted my sister throughout the majority of my wait in line.

It was only when I posted this pic that I realized
 there's a heart on the signature. 
In the meantime, Vic came out (fandom noise explosion!!) and gave us a little pep-talk and how-to for the autograph process. They also played some of his music while we waited. I did have some inkling that he was a singer because I heard him do an English version of Bratja in Ed's voice (and here's my harp version! Shameless plug!). But it was the first time I heard his other work, and I was pleasantly surprised by it, and made a mental note to look into more.

Anyway, it was interesting observing the fans while I waited in line. I'd heard stories, but I got to see some confirmation of said fan behavior in action. As in, people freaking out. For the most part, everyone was fine and composed and respectable, but there were still little "moments"...
For example, people asking for body parts to be signed (it was face or chest, I couldn't see). Another example: a girl was maybe two feet from Vic in the line, right where the staff was stationed, and she dropped to the floor. I think she landed face down, and then rolled around a little on the ground in a hyperbolic faint/seizure, before shooting back up to her feet again. I exchanged meaningful glances with one of the parents in the line (I'm pretty sure our looks said, "That shit is crazy"). To be honest, I'm surprised security didn't give her a warning (was security even there?), because moving around that recklessly could get someone hurt (likely herself). At the very least, she could've knocked stuff over and made a mess and slowed the line down. But, as I've read and heard about it, this type of thing seems to happen all the time when people meet Vic Mignogna. Little did I know that when it was my turn to meet him, I would soon have a better understanding of how and why people lose it around him.

When it was finally my turn, before I could even open my mouth Vic smiled and said something like, "Beautiful girl, you are absolutely beautiful!" Well, that pretty much stunned me stupid. I remembered to thank him, and I remembered to shake his hand and say, "Good to meet you," and he asked me my name. I brought two DVDs from FMA Brotherhood with me and said, "Which one would you like to sign?" I had gone through all of the disc covers and picked the ones I thought looked best, but in the end he asked me to choose. So I pointed to the disc pictured above and said, "Well....he looks more badass here."  "I agree," he responded, and then he signed it.

While he was doing that I mentioned, "I am new to all of this. This is really the only series I've seen." He handed me the disc and said, "Well, you picked a good one!" And then I remembered to ask, "What should I watch next?" He thought about it and said, "Ouran High School Host Club." A couple fangirls squeed and said, "YES!" which made me laugh. Then he continued, "It's nothing like FMA, really the polar opposite of it, but I want you to give it a shot, and come back next year and tell me what you think of it." I said, "Sounds like a plan!"

Then he asked me if I also wanted a picture, and I said, "Yes please!" I'm pretty sure at that point everything I said had an audible exclamation point! And I think he said something like, "Well of course, you gorgeous girl, come on over here, I'd love to take one with you!" And he put his arm around me to pull me in for the shot but then my digital camera got stuck on my badge before I could give it to the photo helper. After that snafu, it was round two, and I was pulled in for a hug and squeezed super tight. My hair got all over Vic's face so I had to stop and try to brush it out of the way. He gave me a big fat kiss on the cheek but the camera person missed the shot. But by round three, we got it!

I'm really pleased with how this picture turned out!
And as an added bonus, it looks like my boobs are on
an important mission.

I'm grinning really hard in this picture because I was still in a state of shock that I had been complimented so much and then kissed (literally 2 seconds earlier). It's hard to tell, but I am in fact blushing.

I've stood in line for famous people before--voice actors, authors, agents, etc. But I've never had anything like that happen to me.

I wasn't even expecting to be hugged. I was thinking we'd pose like...well, pretty much like how I posed with Todd.  

The whole thing was one big surprise to me. And in that moment, I became a silly girl like the other silly girls. And soon as the photo was taken, I went blank and just wandered off.

 I forgot to say thanks and goodbye before leaving, but I do think I said rather audibly to everyone in the rest of the line, "Wow....that was kind of awesome" before disappearing through the double doors.

And now that I've re-read my above recollection of the autograph session, I realize I devoted a lot of time to it and too much detail. Fuckity fuck, that's just more solid proof that I'm probably heading further into silly fangirlness. I guess I'll have to embrace it...but responsibly. That means no marriage proposals or autographed body parts or fainting or screaming, eww. But I'll say that the above picture and the experience that accompanied it was probably one of the best, if not the best, moment of the whole con for me, and I wouldn't completely dismiss the idea of waiting in line at a future convention for him.

WELL! After all of that fun, I did get lots of pictures taken in the hallway of my costume, and I did go out of my comfort zone a little and spoke with people I didn't know at all. I don't remember who I was talking to at the time, but one of the parents who had waited in the autograph line to get something signed for his son randomly hopped into our conversation and said, "You should tell 'em what Vic did when he saw your costume!" I did get more than one comment like this, so the only thing I can think of is that other people who saw the whole thing thought it was awesome and crazy, too.

I soon met up with my friend Drew, who had just finished Uncle Yo's panel Beyond D & D; and Drew was really pleased with both the panel content as well as  Uncle Yo himself. Then I got a text from Dave who was getting ready to leave the convention, so we all met up one last time and ate at Steak and Shake. At that point my feet were killing me, and my hair started to straighten and get nasty from the humidity, but I insisted on wearing my costume still. When we came back from lunch and bade Dave farewell, Drew and I decompressed a little while I re-curled that huge mass of hair. He read some more of my novel (always a HOORAY!) and we watched some more Adventure Time. I can't remember very much after that but I think we might've split up then...I think he went to the water park and I wandered around the convention some more.

By then I had my character sketches from The Name and the Key in hand, and I had chosen my artist: Molly Carlson of MMC Illustrations. I picked her because not only did I like her style, but she really has an amazing sense of color and light. I worded that weirdly, but look at her logo and you'll see what I mean.

Anyway, I gave her a quick and probably somewhat bizarre rundown of the characters and what I wanted from her...which was roughly, "take a look at my artwork, make it better, and make it your own."  I can't wait to see it once it's completed; I'm sure it'll be awesome!

Hopefully this won't
happen to the
new watch.
After that I hit up the dealer's room and bought things. Lots of things. New sandals because my geta broke; new tabi socks; a replacement alchemist pocket watch because I stupidly washed mine in the laundry; a Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword tee; and from the lobby a Colossal Con 11 shirt to commemorate my first panel.

I got stopped in the hallway some more times for pics--this time I posed with people. There was a cute girl with a huge scythe and she wore a red plaid skirt--she was a sweetie and we took a pic together. There were a few other pics I did, and I have a feeling  some of them were slightly pervy--I couldn't see what the guys were doing in the shot but I got that vibe. Another guy at least politely outright asked if we could pose romantically...I wasn't sure what that meant, but if it's on the Internet at any point, I'm kind of half-clutching some dude with black wings and calling that "romantic."

But even after all that, a lot of time passed and still hadn't gone to all the panels I was interested in. I wanted to go to the Masquerade, but I don't think we were even in the building then. I tried to make up for missing the Masquerade by going to the World Cosplay Summit, but that was cancelled (anybody know why?). I was at a loss for what to do next, and I no longer had my schedule on me. So I grabbed a new one and headed straight into a panel: Anime to Live Action. Considering I hadn't really watched much anime, I didn't recognize most of what the panelists discussed, but nonetheless I enjoyed myself. The speakers were dynamic and enjoyable, and the video clips they picked were hilarious...especially the one where Jackie Chan fights as a bunch of Street Fighter characters. That was pretty ridiculous.
I really like this picture of me and the Fuhrer,
even though it's backwards and blurry.
Hooray spontaneous hallway photo!

After that I headed to the Ask Your Favorite Anime Character. It was supposed to run 9-11 but it ended up being 9:30-10:30. It was a pretty funny session. There were a lot of voice actors and characters, but I only recognized Edward Elric, Jonny Quest, Speed Racer, I kinda suck, I really don't know much about anime! I know there were other characters, like Axel and Death the Kid and the Host Club characters and a weird teddy bear thing and a bunny thing that kept asking about signing contracts for magical girls (???), but I didn't know what shows or games they were from.

Anyway, a lot of the questions were like, "Who would win in a fight with X" or "Will you marry me / would you date me?" and some poor girl even said, "I know I'm not that pretty, but would you date me/like me?" etc.

I didn't know what to think about all that. First I kind of wanted to go "awwwww" at the kids who passively dissed themselves when they asked their questions, cause I want them to like themselves more! There wasn't an ugly person in that room!

But I also wanted to roll my eyes because I don't know if the people asking the questions realize how much you put a voice actor on the spot when you ask them to love you or date you or marry you or tell you how pretty you are. Not only do they have to answer in character, but they have to answer in a way that doesn't goof up the continuity in their respected franchises, and they have to answer in a way that pleases everyone and offends no one. Tall order, right? (The actors did a good job with answering those types of questions, btw, but still....)

Disney characters randomly showed up during the panel (old school Disney, like Minnie and Mickey and Donald Duck and Goofy) and I think Yoda hopped in at some point. And then there was a lot of random singing...lots of breaks in the panel to sing 80s songs and "Don't Stop Believing"...This was funny, because the whole room joined in to sing and we shared a good moment...but then it kept happening over and over again, to the point that the whole panel was on the verge of derailing.

I think a lot of that stuff happened because the actors couldn't see the audience, and there was quite a bit of silence in between questions and when the mic was being passed around, so they tried to fill it. And the same voice actors kept getting asked questions over and over again, so there was a lot of banter and improv from the actors who were "overlooked," so that way everyone could get a fair share of mic time.

But it seemed like nobody was in control at any point. So this is why I thought most of the panel was really, really good and the rest of the panel was kind of annoying. The thing is, it was a strange combination of circumstances and people, so I don't know if there's any way to make it better or if that type of control could even happen. In my perfect version of the panel:

  • No personal questions would be allowed from the audience in any context
  • An assertive moderator would be in charge of keeping the audience and actors on course
  • Instead of letting it be a total free-for-all, a certain amount of time in the beginning of the panel would be allotted per character. They should cycle through the complete list once, so that way we hear from every actor--honestly, I think they should introduce themselves in character and give a 2-5 sentence blurb about who they are. Then after that initial cycle, it can be unstructured and random questions.

I really wanted to hear from Jonny Quest--I grew up on three versions of that series  (and the movies) and loved it, but the best question I could think of was, "Would you ever want to wear Hadji's clothes?" which was kind of stupid so I refrained from asking it. As much as I loved hearing Edward Elric talk about his coat being made of licorice and random rants about height and the magical-girl contract he accidentally signed ("I'M GROWING BREASTS!!") I still kept thinking, "Aw, there no more love for the old-school characters?"   

All in all , despite some funky moments, I did laugh a lot, and I was happy overall that I went to the panel.

Afterward I wanted to check out the Star Trek panel (I've watched the Original Series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager, plus J.J. Abram's reboot) and then the Brony panel and then karaoke (to sing either Yui's Again or Bonnie Pink's Ring a Bell), but at that point there was something seriously wrong with my left foot and I was starting to worry about it. It was back to being super-painful and partially numb/tingly (even though I managed to sit down for lengthy periods of time), and this was after I put in rubber insoles for comfort. I limped back upstairs and sat down to rest. I was ready to give the convention floor another shot in costume, but Drew gently advised that I looked pretty exhausted. I looked in the mirror and agreed with him. Exhausted, melted, and paler than usual. So I changed out of everything, we ordered pizza, and we watched the bloopers from FMA Brotherhood before conking out early.

Again, although I feel like I accomplished more on Saturday, I still had panels I was interested in that I never made it to for various reasons:

Tribute Wars Finale Premiere || Cosplay Masquerade || World Cosplay Summit || Zombies! Science and Survival || Bronies: How We Got Here || 20 Most Essential Anime || Star Trek: Get in Here! || Adapting Scripts for English Dubs || Japan: Been There, Done That, and You Can Too! || Resident Evil VS Silent Hill || Anime VS Manga || Race in Anime || Best Anime You've Never Seen || Worst Anime Ever || Karaoke

I don't know what happened. I know initially, there weren't panels that jumped out at me, but then I looked at things after the fact or at the wrong time, and did a forehead slap when I realized how much cool stuff I missed. Next year I'm going to do a lot better with planning and sticking to said plans.

I think we did a good job of bringing
the anime characters to life. Yay!
I wanted to do the last chance autographs to try and get a better pic with Todd Haberkorn, and I also really, really wanted to go to Making and Selling Your Own Visual Novel, as well as get my reimbursement $ for my panel; and I was curious about Voice Acting vs. Stage / On-Camera Acting.

Drew wanted to check out the Otaku Flea Market to look for things the dealer room didn't have, and I was curious about it, too.

I was tired of taking three hours to get into clothes. I didn't even bother with my kimono or my Daenerys dress or anything special, just jeans and a tee, before heading downstairs.

We had one of the worst check-outs in the history of checking out. I already unloaded to my heart's content on the comment cards, so I won't share what happened here, but suffice it to say that we were so completely pissed off, exhausted, and inconvenienced that we were like, "fuck this!" and left as soon as I had my panel money in my hand. Which means we missed everything.

Looking back on it now, it kind of sucked that we were a little impulsive and skipped out on stuff, (especially seeing feedback on the forums for the panels I missed) but...Drew got to be a last-second hero to another con-goer, so everything worked out in its own special way.

And as soon as I got home, I slept and slept and slept. Drew brought things to try and keep our immune systems up (Airborne, Multi-vitamins, etc) but I feel like I got hit by a train and my body's still on the tracks somewhere. And my left foot is still messed up, too...blistered and still partially numb. I've been cleaning the wounds daily and keeping an eye on things, but I'm a little worried about it. I hope everything is ok soon, because on Tuesday the 19th, I'm back in Greensburg, PA for my Seton Hill residency.

Here's what I have to say OVERALL!  Even though we had some funky experiences, you know what? We know exactly what to do and exactly what not to do for next year--we'll bring our own food, pack exponentially less, load up everything the night before, wear comfortable shoes, create a specific plan of action and stick to it, read the con program in more detail, make more of an effort to be on the floor, take more cosplay photos, and go to more panels and events.

I enjoyed Colossal Con! I thought the panels I managed to attend were great, I had a wonderful first-time cosplay experience, I loved the layout of the convention center, and I loved that Con Ops and the Panel Ops were so incredibly organized. I enjoyed meeting Vic, and the whole autograph and photo experience will be something I'll always remember. And I loved giving my panel and helping people grow as writers, and I hope I can do it again, and make it even better!

Next stop: SETON HILL UNIVERSITY, where I will back in the teacher's seat again with my module,  RISE ABOVE CLICHE! 

24 January 2012

Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos

So, I LOVE Fullmetal Alchemist. Love, love, love it.. And yesterday I went to the Gateway Film Center in Columbus to see the newest addition to the franchise. Before I hop into my review of the film, please allow me to share this with you: I LOVE COSPLAY! I was so happy to see it at the movie theater--how awesome is that!

(cc)  KEB
From left to right: Amanda as Roy Mustang, Joni as Edward Elric, Kelly as Winry Rockbell, and Ashley as Jean Havoc.

I was nervous to ask to take their picture but they were happy to let me snap one before showtime, and to let me share it with the world.

So...Long live ZAG!  I hope to run into you again in June at Colossal Con.

FILM REVIEWFullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos  

The 2012 film poster.
Animated feature by Bones and Aniplex. Licensed and reversioned in English by FUNimation Entertainment. US distribution by ElevenArts. Film directed by Kazuya Murata and produced by Masahiko Minami. From the manga by Hiromu Arakawa.

Read the official film summary!  


I was lucky enough to see this in the movie theater when it premiered in the US! The theater was packed, and I loved being surrounded by fellow fans. Sometimes the audience members provided interesting commentary during the film (ahem, that would be the people who sat next to me), but overall, I liked that I wasn't alone in my love for the franchise. There were a lot of small details here and there in the film that only a fan would understand, and it was nice to be able to catch these little moments and have my reactions make sense--we all laughed and cringed at the right spots together.

The audience highlights (SPOILERS): everyone laughing when Major Armstrong winks at Winry, and the huge collective groan when Julia's "brother" removes the piece of flesh from his ribs inscribed with a transmutation circle. I think it hurt everyone who watched row was definitely squirming. On top of all that...watching FMA on the big screen really is a sight to behold. It looked good. Very good.  

Here's my report card, AND THERE ARE MORE SPOILERS. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED. I also recommend hopping over to Rotten Tomatoes and read what actual film critics have to say about the film--I find I agree with a lot of what they have to say, for both the Fresh and Rotten reviews.

PLOT: When it comes to storytelling, there are two types of tales that exist: a plot-based story and a character-based story. Usually it's one or the other, but some of the best creative works are able to provide a relatively balanced mixture of both. I myself hold a bias towards character-based stories--it's what I like to write and what I like to see/read. So...That being said, FMA: SSM is very, very heavy on the plot and at times I couldn't always follow it. This is also because the film is very, very heavy on the action.

I love action, don't get me wrong, but the pace of the film (after its initial scenes of exposition) shoots out at the speed of light and doesn't let up. This is a mixed blessing. On the one hand, there was never a dull moment in this film and it always had my full attention. On the other hand, I wasn't always sure of exactly what was going on...I feel like I'd have to view this film a second time in order for me to understand it.

There also seemed to be some continuity errors. This film is NOT a sequel to the series, but a sort of "midquel" supposed to take place somewhere around episode 20 in Brotherhood, and the film functions as an added bonus episode--extra fun, but also not necessary to the original story. There were a few moments where I scratched my head and thought, Was it like that in the series? I don't remember. The scenes whizzed by quickly but it did make me question the film's consistency with the pre-established anime series.
The 2012 DVD/Blu-Ray combo pack.

To the film's credit, though, it does provide some interesting parallels to the television series--it was hard not to consider the plight of the Ishvallans (from the first and second series) and compare it to the plight of the Milosians (from the film). And it also did a good job of reiterating the terrible price of the philosopher's stone--it was horrific to see in the series and just as horrific in this film (that freaky bloodbath tower of terror!!!!). The film's strong sense of morality, and its ability to show the dark side of things (as well as the gray, ambiguous side of things) is very consistent with the other works in the franchise. The film truly is representative of the series, there is no mistaking that. Overall Grade: B-

CHARACTERIZATION:  While this story is technically Julia and her brother's, I really, really wanted to see more Ed and Al! There were a couple moments where Al did get to have some time to shine, and his scenes with Julia were always poignant, but Ed's my favorite character and I was bummed that he didn't take center stage more often, instead providing some good action sequences and comic relief.

In terms of the rest of the characters in the film, it was nice to see some familiar faces again (Mustang, Hawkeye, Winry) but they still didn't seem to fit the story exactly--it seemed like they were thrown in just for the sake of appearances...again, a nice nod to fans, but sad for the story itself since they're rendered as throwaway characters. Poor Winry--she's come to the battlefield looking for Ed, and conveniently his automail got messed up so she can work on it (and therefore is relevant to the plot again). However, I don't remember seeing Ed mess up his automail and we don't see Winry working on it--if it happened, it was a blip on the radar and I totally missed it amid all the other things going on. Anyway, in graduate school we talk about showing versus telling in our writing, and this was a film scene in which telling was used instead of it didn't actually prove to me that Winry was a helpful or relevant character. We're just told she is.

As for new characters, Julia proved to be a sympathetic heroine and I felt I got a nice snapshot of her humanity. The other characters--Miranda, Ashleigh, etc.--although they were interesting enough to forward the plot, I didn't know enough about them to care whether or not they lived or died. And there is a lot of death in this movie, just so you know. Overall Grade: B-

ACTING: Consistently top-notch, as always. I got a warm, fuzzy feeling hearing familiar voices once again, and the new actors performed just as well. I didn't always like hearing the villains burst into long and involved fits of maniacal laughter, but I fault the script for that, not the actors. Overall Grade: A+

ANIMATION: This was a new animation style to adjust to. I could easily tell who everyone was, but visually, there was a clear difference to how the characters are rendered in the film versus the first two series. I like the Brotherhood series' style better overall, but that's just me. I will say though, I kind of like Ed's eyes in this movie (there's like three different colors in them, making them more dynamic) and there were instances where character motion was very organic and fluid. But it still seemed like less emphasis was placed on the artwork of the characters themselves, and more on the "set design" of the movie. There are plenty of gorgeous renditions of the landscape in the film, and so much detail and painstaking care is evident in the scenery, backgrounds, and city design. On the whole the use of color was brilliant. But, as a member of the audience, I'm always more interested in watching characters than scenery, and if there is anything to fault the film's style for, it would be emphasizing background over foreground. 


 Edward Elric in action...*
Image (c) Protected 
Look at those eyes!!!!!!
Image (c) Protected


A composite of screenshots reveal intricate backgrounds and coloring.
Composite by Rei of Wanabrar. Images (c) Protected
See the difference? The background looks better than the characters. In my opinion, it should be the other way around. However, the film still looks good, so it gets an Overall Grade: A-.

MUSIC: I don't know too much about Japanese popular artists, so I'm not sure how valid my opinion will be in regards to the pop songs for the film.  L'arc~En~Ciel did the main theme "Good Luck My Way" (which I think played over the closing credits), and that was fine and suitable for the film. They've been tied to the franchise and are the perfect choice. The opening song, "Chasing Hearts" by Miwa was nice on the ears, but it didn't seem to fit only because it sounded very happy and optimistic while the Wolfman chimera is jumping along the trains.  Kind of conflicting imagery, there....In terms of the film score, Wow! The opening composition that plays during the Harvest Festival (I think that's the was a Something Festival) scene that first shows us Ed and Al, sounded absolutely lovely. It reminded me of some of the music I heard when I lived overseas. The film score was very well done and was effective at heightening emotional tension throughout the movie. I am a fan of Taro Iwashiro now and will look for more of his orchestral compositions. Based on the film's score, I give the music an Overall Grade: A+

FINAL GRADE (Totaled and averaged from above): B-.

WOULD I RECOMMEND? To fans, yes. And pretty much fans only.I think someone unfamiliar with the series would be lost. Although the film does a good job providing exposition for Ed's automail limbs and Al's missing body (the basis for the whole series) I don't think that this would be a complete enough introduction the world that is Fullmetal Alchemist. The newbie audience member would leave with too many questions, in my opinion. Leaving with questions isn't always a bad thing--you want to promote critical, serious thought with the art you've created--but I think they would not only wonder about the plot, but wonder about the mechanics of the FMA in, plausibility. The series explains the "rules" of alchemy and the "rules" of Amestrian society ok enough, but this film is only a quick peek into a region that bears no importance to the main continuity of the Fullmetal Alchemist saga.

I've heard that this is the last time anything FMA-related will be produced, since the manga has been completed and Brotherhood has finished. I'll be upset if FMA: SSM is indeed the last thing fans have to look forward to, but on its own, fans will be happy with it.

Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos. Dir. Kazuya Murata. By Yuichi Shinbo. Prod. Masahiko Minami. Perf. Vic Mignogna, Maxey Whitehead, Alexis Tipton (Eng. Dub). Funimation Entertainment, 2012. Film.